WASHINGTON (AP) -- Negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate, responding to a sense of urgency conveyed by President Barack Obama, quickly agreed Tuesday on legislation to tighten controls over how the U.S. Defense Department buys and develops weapons systems.
Obama has stressed the importance of cutting costs and delays in the Pentagon's weapons acquisition process and had asked Congress to send him a bill by Memorial Day improving buying practices.
With the compromise, lawmakers might achieve that goal. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House was ready to take up the bill Thursday.
The Senate approved its version of the legislation two weeks ago and the House last week, both unanimously.
The measure adds new oversight and transparency to a process that has long been marked by billions of dollars in cost overruns and long delays in getting new weapons from the planning stage to the battlefield.
Under the compromise, the Senate got one of its priorities, appointment of a new director of independent cost assessment tasked with ensuring that budgets are based on sound assumptions. The director would report to the secretary of defense but would be chosen by the president and subject to Senate confirmation.
The negotiators also included House-backed provisions to set up an early warning system for programs that do not keep costs down and subject those programs experiencing serious cost overruns to greater supervision.
It strengthens a 1982 statute, which has been largely ignored in recent years, that allows termination of programs that experience excessive cost overruns.
"Too often, under the current system, we end up with too few weapons that cost us too much and arrive too late," said Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He said the legislation will not end efforts to improve the acquisition system, but "it is an important and essential step."
Lawmakers crafting the bill cited a recent congressional study that concluded 96 major weapons systems are running almost $300 billion over original cost estimates and on average are 22 months behind schedule.